America's Healthiest Chain Restaurants: Panera Bread

This is part four of a 10-part series highlighting the healthiest chain restaurants in America, along with the efforts they're making to promote healthy eating. We're defining a chain as any restaurant with more than 25 locations. Find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Panera Bread has risen in popularity largely due to the perception that it's healthier than other fast food or fast-casual chains, and the company has worked very hard to make sure that it lives up to those expectations. The company is committed to using only "clean ingredients" with no MSG, artificial trans fats, artificial preservatives, colorings, sweeteners, or flavorings; and all menu items are evaluated to make sure that they meet the three core areas of their Food Policy: clean ingredients, transparent menu, and positive impact.

The menu is chock-full of healthy foods, from freshly baked breads to soups (French onion and creamy tomato are both winners); salads like strawberry poppy seed and chicken, Mediterranean chicken and quinoa, and power kale Caesar with chicken; a variety of sandwiches and flatbreads; and new "broth bowls" loaded with healthy ingredients like edamame, lentils, quinoa, and cage-free eggs.